And remember, you too are making history each day. Let’s make a history that lifts up all people, erases no one, and leaves behind nothing but hateful ideology.Katherine Locke – The Girl with the Red Balloon
I found this quote recently. It was the very last line of the acknowledgements section of a wonderful book by author Katherine Lock, The Girl with the Red Balloon. When I read this quote, it struck me. Everyone can make history. Everyone can make a difference, and everyone can help make the world a better place. It’s something I’ve been trying to put into words for over a year now, as my transitional journey has progressed.
The journey Ellie, one of the main characters in The Girl with the Red Balloon, faces, is one of hardship, and how to adapt to life in a new, and hostile environment. She is ripped from her family and friends, and taken to 1988 East Berlin through no fault of her own. She must find a way to survive, and in that process, she thrives, finds love, makes friendships, and grows immensely as a person. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it!
The reason I bring Ellie up, is because there are certain parallels between her time spent in 1988, with my life. On July 25th, 2017, I came out as a transgender woman to my friends and family. I had long repressed, and hid, and refused to acknowledge that fact. When I finally had the courage to come out, my life was ripped from me, and I found myself in a new world. One that has half the country hating me just because I exist. One where nothing will ever be easy again. How do you tell someone you want to date that you’re trans? How do you deal with the stares, the mocking, the hate, and discrimination from employers, landlords, and random people on the street? In this new world, where hate is around every corner, I also had to learn to navigate a transition. What medical needs I have, when to change my clothes, how to go through the legalities such as a name change, or fixing the gender marker on all my important documents. It was no easy task, and some things are still, and will forever be unfinished.
But in this world where I was afraid everyone was against me, I found love, acceptance, and support as well. People who were acquaintances became close friends, family became my rock to stand on, and grow from, and I have learned more about myself than ever before. “You’re so brave”, “You are changing lives”, “You are an inspiration” are phrases that became common to hear, even if I didn’t believe them. To me, I was just trying to survive, and live my life. But others saw bigger. They saw that in my effort to navigate my medical needs, I was beginning to change my company for the better. It’s not done yet, but I am actively working with my HR department to get medical benefits for trans care, beyond hormones. They saw me walking into the world, even before I could pass. They saw a strong brave woman who wasn’t afraid to take the hate and the stares, to help normalize transgender existence in society. They saw someone who was willing to risk everything, to make a better life for herself.
I’ve now been on hormones for 16 months, and I am proud to say I get to live my life as a woman, and I wouldn’t change that for anything. To me it felt like a necessity, that I was doing this for myself, that it was my life that was getting better. But I’ve learned that I am making history, working to prove hateful ideologies wrong, and leaving the world a better place than when I started. And just like Ellie, I have struggled, found friendships, and grown as a person. Still waiting on that love thing, but I’m sure it’s just around the corner!